Health Canada wants to end medical cannabis
Health Canada wants to end medicinal cannabis in Canada. They have opened a poll for Canadians to give their opinion. But as is usual with these things, the decisions have already been made.
“They’ve always been disingenuous in releasing these types of polls,” says Ted Smith, longtime cannabis activist and Cannabis Digest contributor. “They’ve really made up their minds about the position they’re going into.”
Medical cannabis patients have a constitutional right to reasonable access. But that doesn’t include a separate medical program or even the ability to have your cannabis reimbursed by an insurance company.
“Government doesn’t have to do what’s best,” says Ted, “it just has to meet its minimum constitutional standards.”
And with the legalization of recreational use, Health Canada will likely end medicinal cannabis.
“I know for a fact that Health Canada and their attorneys have been preparing for years to argue that there is no longer a need for a separate medical program,” says Ted.
Why does Health Canada want to end medical cannabis?
Medical cannabis patients have been fighting for their rights since the 1990s. A court decision in 2001 forced Health Canada to establish a medicinal cannabis program.
However, they never approved it as a drug. Doctors only approve medicinal cannabis. You don’t prescribe it.
Ted Smith is confident that Health Canada will place medicinal cannabis under the Natural Health Products Act.
“So if you’re going to sell something as medicinal cannabis,” says Ted, “you have to go through some tests and be able to say it’s good for sleep or for anxiety. And then you can sell it as a cannabis health product. But it will not be a prescription drug. It will be available to everyone over the counter and will no longer be available through insurance.”
But why? What does Health Canada have against medicinal cannabis? According to Ted Smith, they don’t like cannabis as much as they like dealing with patients and their licenses.
“They had several issues with the entire program,” says Ted. “Partly because it was poorly designed from the start.”
“From the early days of MMAR’s inception, they’ve said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to listen to members of the public,’ but they haven’t set up medical shops, they haven’t allowed edible products, they haven’t really listened to anyone but the people that they wanted to hear,” says Ted.
How Health Canada will end medicinal cannabis
How will Health Canada end medicinal cannabis? By addressing the leisure market. When Health Canada tried to remove patient gardens with the MMPR in 2013, patients responded with Allard’s injunction.
The courts sided with the patients because the medical cannabis market at the time could not provide reasonable access.
“When the Allard decision was made,” says Ted, “patients weren’t getting the strains they needed, they couldn’t get them at the prices they wanted. It was something that was before legalization.”
“Now patients have access to all strains. You also now have access to cheap cannabis compared to what was available. Prices in the legal system continue to fall. Not so much for edibles yet, but certainly for the dry herb.”
Ted is confident that Health Canada will abolish the program, meaning there will be no more MMAR breeders. Since legalization allows four plants per household, the courts can rule that it’s good enough for patients.
Ted also expects legalization rules to change to accommodate patients, but only incremental, superficial changes. For example, eight plants instead of four, or 20 mg of edibles instead of a 10 mg cap.
On a scale of one to ten, how likely are Canadians to lose their medicinal cannabis program?
“I’d say the odds are nine right now,” says Ted. “Because the general public and the people who have licenses don’t realize how serious this threat is.”
What evidence supports Health Canada?
“Most of the public and most cannabis users have no idea this is in the works,” says Ted. Many medical cannabis patients don’t even realize that their gardens are being threatened (again).
And why should the recreational cannabis industry care that Health Canada wants to end medicinal cannabis?
“They also want the medical program to be scrapped,” says Ted. “They don’t want to give people discounts, they don’t want to answer medical use questions and do all the extra paperwork for the medicine, they just want to get stuff out the door quickly.”
But rest assured that every law enforcement agency, municipality, prescription drug company, and busy organization knows what is happening.
“They do everything they can to produce evidence that Health Canada can later use in court.”
Medical cannabis patients may have a right to the safety of the person. But Health Canada will argue that a separate medicinal cannabis program is not in the public interest.
“And that’s where all this other evidence that Health Canada is now collecting comes in,” says Ted.
Rather than Health Canada’s attorneys doing the legwork, Health Canada “just put a huge net out there and said, ‘Hey, everyone, let us know what you guys think about this.'”
But in reality, “they’re really just going to gather evidence inside the bureaucracy that wants to shut it down.”
What can we do?
What can we do to ensure Health Canada doesn’t end the medicinal cannabis program? As mentioned, the survey is more lip service than anything substantial.
Still, it’s important to let Health Canada know that thousands of us are unhappy about this.
The poll closes on November 21st, but a week before (November 14th) Ted Smith and collaborators will publish their responses to Cannabis Digest.
“We want people to see and cut and paste all of our arguments and let Health Canada know what’s going on,” says Ted.
“If there’s no medical marijuana program for us, then there’s no medical marijuana shops,” meaning there is no longer a Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club, which has helped countless patients over the years.
Unfortunately, none of this is surprising. When Health Canada derives 90% of its funding from pharmaceutical interests, a conflict of interest arises.
Ted Smith has long anticipated Health Canada’s plans to end medicinal cannabis. “We kind of thought they might have done that in connection with the Smith decision,” he says.
But there is good news.
“A lot of us who stood behind Allard are already ready to go to court after that,” says Ted. “There are still a lot of veterans here that I’ve connected with across the country. So if they try to take our rights away from us again, an injunction will be sought and we will go from there.”
Though Ted admits, “It’s going to be a lot harder than the first time.”